NEWS ARCHIVE 2002 (July-December 29)

Prepared by:
National Stigma Clearinghouse

Please scroll down for earliest entries

December 29, 2002 - News of the Week

A REVISED LOOK AT MEDICATION FOR SCHIZOPHRENIA

The National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) ranks Nancy C. Andreason, M.D., Ph.D. as one of the world's leading researchers on brain science.

In NARSAD's recent Newsletter (Fall, 2002), Dr. Andreason makes a startling comment about schizophrenia medication. "We are gradually, steadily building a scientific basis for knowing what doses of drugs to use for our patients to get it exactly right -- not too much and not too little. And that's big progress," she said.

BIG PROGRESS? A stunning lack of progress is more accurate.

Why did it take thirty years to realize the critical importance of medication dose?

What are the odds of finding a doctor who knows when the dose is "exactly right" ?

Who if anyone is re-training mental health practitioners, most of whom have been told that neuroleptic medications are harmless, effective, and mandatory?

The commentary below on medicating schizophrenia is from Marc Ross Miller, Resource Specialist/Advocate, Long Island Center for Independent Living. Unfortunately, it may take years for these critical views to penetrate the mental health field.


Received by E-mail from Marc Ross Miller (marcrmiller@earthlink.net), February 15, 2002

The news that a great proportion of people labeled schizophrenic actually live full, rich, lives isn't news at all.  That is, it isn't news to those who have lived it.
 
Richard Warner has written, in my opinion, an excellent book entitled, Recovery from Schizophrenia: Psychiatry and Political Economy (2nd ed).  [For whatever it's worth, Warner is Associate Professor, University of Colorado, and medical director of the Mental Health Center of Boulder County, Colorado].
 
I'll summarize Chapter 12, "Antipsychotic drugs: use, abuse and non-use."
 
  • The revolving-door patient has been created by the use of drug treatment coupled with a neglect of the psychosocial needs of the person labeled with a psychotic illness.

  • Antipsychotic drugs may be unnecessary or harmful in the treatment of a proportion of people labeled schizophrenic; such patients include drug non-responders and good-prognosis cases.

  • Long-term treatment with antipsychotic drugs creates dopamine receptor supersensitivity, potentially worsening an underlying "biochemical deficit" of schizophrenia.

  • Withdrawal of antipsychotic drugs may cause a rebound of schizophrenic symptoms to a higher level than would have been the case without treatment.

  • Drug-withdrawl studies, consequently, may give an overoptimistic impression of the benefits of the neuroleptic drugs in schizophrenia.

  • The majority of non-withdrawl studies indicate that people with "good-prognosis" schizophrenia do as well or better without antipsychotic drug treatment,

  • Stress precipitates "psychotic relapse" in people labeled schizophrenic and drug treatment is less necessary for patients in low-stress settings. 

  • User-friendly medication strategies promote the use of low doses of antipsychotic medications in persons labeled schizophrenic.

  • The best prognostic measures give a rather crude indication of which patients will recover without drug treatment.

  • Some, and only some, people with "good-prognosis schizophrenia" in fact suffer from bipolar disorder.

  • The principles of drug-free treatment are the same as those of any good low-dosage approach to the treatment of persons labeled schizophrenic.

    Summary by
    Marc Ross Miller


    RELATED READING

    Book:
    Recovery from Schizophrenia: Psychiatry and Political Economy, by Richard Warner

  • December 21, 2002 - News of the Week


    ACTIVIST RECOMMENDS "Media Tip Sheets"

    The following "ImPRESSive Resource" (click below) came to us from Laura Van Tosh (Montgomery County MD Coalition for Human Rights in Mental Health) with the comment, "THESE MATERIALS ARE WONDERFUL. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!"

    "The Story Bank: Using Personal Stories as an Effective Way to Get Your Message Out" discusses how to build relationships with reporters using personal stories based on real-world experience. The piece addresses such topics as how to pick the right story and preparing for an interview.

    Go to the source: Families USA
    http://www.familiesusa.org/Winter2002ImPRESSive.pdf

    More ImPRESSive resources at:
    http://www.familiesusa.org/html/advocates/impress.htm

    Happy Holidays from Us, Too!


    December 15, 2002 - News of the Week

    RESEARCH ON VIOLENCE REFUTES LONG-HELD BELIEFS

    Antistigma Activists Are Encouraged by Risk-Study Data


    "Evidence continues to mount that schizophrenia and psychotic symptoms are negatively, if at all, related to the risk of future violence among offenders and individuals who receive psychiatric services. ... There is as yet no convincing evidence that dynamic variables (especially treatment) play a role in determining who is likely to engage in future violence."

    We plucked this quote from the conclusions of "The Appraisal of Violence Risk," an overview of research literature on a very timely topic, violence risk assessment. The article, from Current Opinion in Psychiatry, posted 12/02/2002, is by Marnie E. Rice, Grant T. Harris, and Vernon L. Quinsey.

    The article (difficult reading for laypeople) appears on the website of Medscape, a division of WebMD. The website is FREE, open to non-professionals, and requires a one-minute registration process. A clickable LINK is below.

    The findings should be a wake-up call to people who propose to end violence with forced medication.


    RELATED READING

    On the Web:
    (Registration required) "The Appraisal of Violence Risk."The annotated reference and reading list is of special interest.

    New Study Finds Social Risk Factors For Violent Behavior

    The MacArthur Violence Risk Assessment: Executive Summary

    The MacArthur Community Violence Study

    December 8, 2002 - News of the Week

    HONOR IS OVERDUE FOR PEOPLE MURDERED BY NAZIS IN GERMAN INSTITUTIONS

    Harold A. Maio Calls For A DAY OF REMEMBRANCE, DECEMBER 29


    Between 1939 and 1945 the Nazis exterminated as many as 200,000 mentally ill or physically disabled people whom they labeled "unworthy of life." A document from 1935 shows that plans to get rid of people deemed worthless had begun to take shape. This covert operation provided the technical expertise later deployed in the Final Solution.

    Six psychiatric hospitals were chosen for the extermination program -- Brandenburg, Grafeneck, Hartheim, Sonnenstein, Bernburg, and Hadamar. In peaceful, secluded Hadamar asylum, for example, a gas chamber disguised as a shower room was built in the cellar.

    In all, over 70,000 people in the six hospitals were exterminated. The highest number had schizophrenia, followed by bipolar illness, epilepsy, alcoholism, and so-called feeble-mindedness.

    In the years that followed, millions more were proclaimed unworthy of living, including Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, Communists, and others.

    Whereas most victims of Nazi persecution have been recognized as deserving restitution and memorialization, the people murdered in institutions were essentially forgotten.

    Harold A. Maio in Ft. Myers Florida has resolved to rectify this major omission.

    By E-mail, Harold has asked every state governor to proclaim December 29, 2002 a DAY OF REMEMBRANCE. A suggested proclamation is below:

    Whereas, in December of 1939 a group of people removed from German psychiatric institutions, under the supervision of doctors in Nazi Germany, entered history's first gas chamber and perished,

    Whereas, in the years following these murders, gas chambers were installed in many German institutions where hundreds of thousands perished,

    Whereas, history has largely neglected the murders of these institutionalized people,

    Whereas, gas chambers were then installed in concentration camps throughout Europe, where millions were murdered,

    We do recognize and preserve the honor of those whose lives were taken and do declare this a Day of Remembrance for those first victims, and do pledge our honor that this day shall memorialize the deaths of those first victims of what became the Holocaust.


    Harold A. Maio
    8955 Forest Street
    Ft. Myers, FL 33907
    Tel: 239-275-5798
    E-mail: khmaio@earthlink.net

    RELATED READING

    Books:
    Death and Deliverance, by Michael Burleigh
    Mad in America, by Robert Whitaker

    A SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT (12/4/02)
    For the Metro New York and Tri-State Area


    DECEMBER 17: BENEFIT PERFORMANCE of "BLUE/ORANGE"

    British theater critics called "BLUE/ORANGE"
  • ...an enthralling drama about the world of mental health
  • ...a discomforting comedy, streaked with excitement and emotion
  • ...theater that follows you out into the street, a transition and a challenge one encounters all too rarely.

    "BLUE/ORANGE" won top awards and audience acclaim in London two years ago. Now in New York with an American cast, there will be a benefit performance of the off-Broadway production on December 17 to assist the outstanding work of the Mental Health Project of New York's Urban Justice Center.

    Please note: Seating is limited in this off-Broadway theater.

    Read two New York Times items (reprinted below) about the play and its author.


    THE MENTAL HEALTH PROJECT of the Urban Justice Center
    cordially invites you to attend
    on Tuesday, December 17, at 8:00 p.m,
    A BENEFIT PERFORMANCE of "BLUE/ORANGE"
    A play by Joe Penhall in its American debut
    Starring: Glenn Fitzgerald; Harold Perrineau, Jr.; & Zeljko Ivanek

    Atlantic Theater Company
    336 West 20th Street
    Tuesday, December 17, 2002     8:00 PM

    A PANEL DISCUSSION WITH CAST MEMBERS AND MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCATES WILL FOLLOW THE PERFORMANCE

    $75 contribution   ($50 tax-deductible)
    $100 contribution ($75 tax-deductible, priority seating)

    To purchase tickets, please contact Teena Brooks (646-602-5665) tbrooks@urbanjustice.org
    or Barney Latimer (646-602-5664)   blatimer@urbanjustice.org


  • --We thank the New York Association for Psychosocial Rehabiliation Services (NYAPRS)for passing along this information--

    Excerpt from New York Times Theater Listing, December 6

    † "BLUE/ORANGE." The testosterone-fueled conflict in this ferocious comedy by the young English writer Joe Penhall is between two psychiatrists: Robert Smith, a senior doctor at a London hospital and his protégé, Bruce Flaherty. The battleground is the treatment of a young black man named Christopher, who may be schizophrenic but is about to be released. Flaherty wants him recommitted, a course of treatment that Smith opposes, though it quickly becomes evident that Christopher is of less interest to them as a patient than as a mallet with which they can beat each other. Mr. Penhall, who is just 34, has yet to achieve the precision of, say, David Mamet, and his play ends on an uncertain note. But he has nonetheless created some brawny characters here, and the acting — by Zeljko Ivanek and Glenn Fitzgerald as Smith and Flaherty, respectively, and especially by Harold Perrineau Jr. as the jittery and unreachable Christopher — is very strong (2:20). Atlantic Theater Company, 336 West 20th Street, (212) 239-6200. Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets: $45, with a limited number of $15 student rush tickets available at the box office on the day of the performance (Bruce Weber).


    Commentary in the
    New York Times, November 24, 2002

    'Blue/Orange': Power Games That Scar in a Psychiatric Arena

    By MATT WOLF


    JOE PENHALL'S award-winning London play "Blue/Orange" may put modern-day psychiatry under the microscope and find it wanting, but that hasn't stopped the English medical profession from taking to it, and leaving Mr. Penhall somewhat bemused.

    "It always surprised me that people got a charge out of `Blue/Orange´ because it was about psychiatry and schizophrenia," said Mr. Penhall, referring to the fact that in London, where he lives, psychoanalysts apparently flocked to see a play that won both the Evening Standard award for best play as well as the Olivier, London´s equivalent to the Tony Award. "I suppose they thought it was nice to see a play about them, the way rock bands went to see the film `This Is Spinal Tap.´ "

    And yet, with "Blue/Orange" now receiving its American premiere at the Atlantic Theater Company, where it opens tonight, Mr. Penhall, 34, is hoping that spectators see his larger point. His interest, he said by telephone from New York, lay in writing a play about "professional people abusing their position, employing power games and semantics for reasons to do with ambition."

    In London, "Blue/Orange" opened at the Royal National Theater to general raves in April 2000 â€" John Peter, in The Sunday Times of London, called it "one of the best new plays in the National's history" â€" before transferring to the West End for a commercial run in 2001. Although there was some talk of reopening the three-character play on Broadway with its original British cast, it is instead arriving Off Broadway in a separate production directed by the Atlantic's artistic director, Neil Pepe, and with three New York actors. Zeljko Ivanek and Glenn Fitzgerald play the two psychiatrists â€" one a senior consultant, the other a junior doctor, both of them white â€" who come to ideological blows over the treatment of a delusional 24-year-old black man at the National Health hospital where both doctors work. That third role of Christopher, the patient, is played by Harold Perrineau Jr., a regular on the HBO prison drama "Oz," and it is his character who gives "Blue/Orange" its title. One of Christopher's most firmly held delusions is the belief that oranges are blue.

    As the two doctors embark on their own career-minded parry and thrust, Christopher threatens to become little more than a human Ping-Pong ball, which led some commentators to think that Mr. Penhall's principal aim was to criticize psychiatry. But, he said, "I'm not equipped to do that."

    Instead, Mr. Penhall added: "I always think of `Blue/Orange´ as a very political play, and a play about spin. It could have been about dentistry or foreign policy â€" about anything that is complicated and open to abuse by silver-tongued tricky Dickies."

    Mr. Pepe, 39, said he had been drawn to a
    text that could simply seem a debate play "in the tradition of Shaw." "But I think," he continued, "one of the sort of remarkable things is that the more you get into it, the more you realize Joe is writing to a certain extent about survival."

    How will those in the mental health industry respond to "Blue/Orange" in New York, a city â€" indeed, a culture â€" that is perhaps more attuned to psychiatry and related issues than London? (In London, people tend to discuss their therapy in hushed tones rather than announcing any insights they might have gleaned to everyone within earshot.)

    "Maybe some psychiatrists in New York will be cynical about the play," Mr. Penhall said. "But to me, it's really about educated middle-class assumptions about race, and the way education and articulacy is each a potent weapon."

    Mr. Penhall said that he had never been in therapy himself, despite having written earlier about mental illness. In 1994, his play "Some Voices," about the difficult re-entry into society of a schizophrenic West Londoner, opened at the Royal Court Theater here. Mr. Penhall adapted the play for its moving and undervalued film version, which had its premiere at the Directors' Fortnight at the 2000 Cannes Festival but was never acquired for distribution in the United States. The play has been presented in New York twice.

    Though sympathetic to issues of mental distress, Mr. Penhall said, he resists being described as someone "who writes about crazy people and schizophrenia; that kind of thing drives me mad." Two other plays of his, he noted â€" "Pale Horse" in 1995 and "Love and Understanding" in 1997 (seen the next year at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven) â€" have nothing to do with schizophrenia and "are about power and power games."

    It's scarcely surprising, then, to hear him cite for inspiration the very American power dynamics of David Mamet; Mr. Penhall was directing a Royal Court reading of Mr. Mamet's play "Speed-the-Plow" at the time that he was writing "Blue/Orange." Not only that, Mr. Mamet is a founder of the Atlantic company, perhaps a logical American home for Mr. Penhall's play.

    As for "Speed-the-Plow," Mr. Penhall said that Mr. Mamet's 1988 drama "is a three-handed argument that runs and runs, so just doing `Speed-the-Plow´ unlocked for me how I could do `Blue/Orange.´ " His own play, he said, is "about people sneakily invoking liberal left-wing arguments for right-wing ends" â€" even if, he noted wryly, "people still see `Blue/Orange´ as a rip-roaring play about madness."

    Source:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/24/arts/theater/24WOLF.html?tntemail0=&pagewant
    ed=print&position=top
    ------------------------------------

    To purchase tickets, please contact
    Teena Brooks (646-602-5665) tbrooks@urbanjustice.org or Barney Latimer (646-602-5664)   blatimer@urbanjustice.org
    ***

    Critics have praised the 2000 world premiere in London:

    "'Blue/Orange' is splendid as a whole.
    It is theatre that follows you out into the street, a transition and a challenge one encounters all too rarely."
    --William McEvoy, Times Literary Supplement

    "Not since [Tom Kempinski's] 'Duet for One'...has there been a better or more enthralling drama about the world of mental health." --Sheridan Morley, International Herald Tribune

    "A discomforting comedy, streaked with excitement and emotion." --Nicholas de Jongh, Evening Standard
    ***
    The Urban Justice Center writes: In exploring the relationships among two psychiatrists and their patient, "Blue/Orange" brings to life many of the issues that our clients face daily. Penhall's work centers around the psychiatrists' debate over the patient's diagnosis as well as his readiness to be discharged. It evolves into a complex argument about the ways race and class influence psychiatric evaluation and treatment.

    The Urban Justice Center invites you to join them for this unique evening of performance and discussion highlighting the urgency of their work advocating for low-income New Yorkers with mental illnesses.

    For further information on the work of the Mental Health Project, please visit their Web site, www.urbanjustice.org.

    November 24, 2002 - News of the Week


    A REPRIEVE TODAY, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE?

    "Armed and Dangerous" (CBS 60 Minutes) Must Not Air Again, Ever!


    At least for now, mental health advocates can celebrate the Senate's failure to vote on S. 2826 (the "Our Lady of Peace Act"). This sweeping amendment, attached to an obsolete gun law, would have added millions of law-abiding citizens to a federal criminal database. Especially regressive is the term "mental defective," a relic of both the American eugenics movement and the Nazis' horrifying application of that concept.

    But what will happen when the new Senate convenes in January? Will the news media play a role? (The House passed the problematic bill just days after "60 MINUTES" aired "Armed and Dangerous," an inflammatory misrepresentation of people with mental illnesses.)

    This brings us to a larger question: What can we do to head off media misrepresentation? With the mental health community's vast numbers, shouldn't we be more effective in achieving fair, accurate, and inclusive representation?

    "Fair, Accurate and Inclusive Representation" is a phrase we lifted from the website of GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Like most other stereotyped minorities, the gay and lesbian community gives top priority to how they are represented in the media. We suggest that mental health organizations and activists visit GLAAD's outstanding website. Click Here.

    At the other end of the anti-defamation spectrum is the mental health community. Arguably, the constituency's highest-visibility spokesperson is Dr. E. Fuller Torrey of the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC). For a decade TAC has emphasized and exaggerated the dangerousness of people with mental illnesses. This group bases its activism, it is said, on the principle that the public will fund what it fears. So far, TAC's "fear" results have been good; their "funding" results poor.


    ACTION TO TAKE NOW

  • Tell "60 MINUTES" that any rebroadcast of "Armed and Dangerous" will be considered a deliberate act of malicious harm. This advance notice will be useful in case of future legal action. (A letter is preferable to E-mail.)

    Contact Information for CBS News

    Write: Don Hewitt, Executive Producer
    "60 MINUTES"
    CBS-News
    524 West 57th Street
    New York, NY 10019

    Send cc's to Andrew Heyward, President CBS News; and Jeffrey Fager, Producer "60 Minutes II" (same address as Hewitt)

    E-mail: audsvcs@cbs.com. Address your message to Don Hewitt's attention.


    Possible message: Armed and Dangerous" (aired Oct. 13, 2002) contains misinformation damaging to people with serious mental illnesses. Any future rebroadcast would be a deliberate act of malicious harm.


    Keep copies of your mail, or better still, e-mail copies to us at stigmanet@webtv.net or send to National Stigma Clearinghouse, 245 Eighth Ave #213, NYC, NY 10011.


  • Let your Senators hear your views on the gun bill if you haven't already done so -- or even if you have. The message: the bill criminalizes law-abiding people. Contact Information: Go to GOOGLE Enter a search for "Senate Members."


  • If you belong to a national mental health organization, urge the expansion of anti-defamation work. Most important, urge your leaders to refute made-up statistics and over-emphasis on violence.


    RELATED READING

    Flawed Bill May Still Threaten

    CBS Rush to Judgment Sensationalizes Mental Illnesses

  • November 17, 2002 - News of the Week (3 Items)


    (Item 1) CUTTING-EDGE WEBSITE MOVES TO A NEW ADDRESS


    The Stigma of Cinemania has a new URL -- http://www.cinemaniastigma.com/, and a new Email Address: david@cinemaniastigma.com

    Mental health activist David Gonzalez created and posted this informative, outspoken, thought-provoking website in January 2000 with technical assistance from his son, David Jr, who has been a staunch supporter of his dad's vision to educate the public about "Cinemania," a term that he defines on the site's opening page.

    The site's initial funding came from a national award David received in 1999, called the "Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award," which is sponsored by the American Association of People With Disabilities. David was the first mental health recipient to be honored with this Award, which is given annually to diverse advocates from the disability community and includes a monetary grant. He has managed to maintain the on-going website charges and expenses by working as an Employment Coordinator at the Department of Labor for an innovative research project called New York Works.

    The Stigma of Cinemania has evolved and expanded over the past two years to include a Message Board, relevant pictures, and various commentaries tracing the media's exploitation of mental illnesses for sensationalism. The text is generously sprinkled with reference links and additional sources of information. David's latest inclusions are video clips and soundbites that illustrate his concept of "Cinemania." These are posted on the "Movie Madness" page.

    In spite of budgetary limitations, Cinemania is expanding and evolving. Soon, for example, the Message Board (which we had trouble finding) will receive higher visibility, and additional pages will be added to include current events, books reviews, and varying points of view. Anyone interested in submitting newspaper articles or headlines symptomatic of "Cinemania" is encouraged to write to David@cinemaniastigma.com.

    A VISIT TO THE SITE IS WORTH 1,000 WORDS. Click here. Please note: The old URL will continue to work for a short time.


    (Item 2) "LOST" FIREARMS EQUIP CRIMINALS; SNIPER'S ASSAULT RIFLE WAS AMONG MANY WEAPONS "MISSING" FROM GUN SHOP

    Meanwhile, Congress May Pass a Gun Law Targeting Millions of Law-Abiding Citizens

    Are people with psychiatric disabilities the scapegoats for Congress's failure to face the teeming business of illegal gun sales to violent people?

    The U.S. Senate is considering reviving an archaic gun law that targets vast numbers of law-abiding people -- everyone ever involuntarily committed to psychiatric care regardless of the reason. The Bill sailed through the House of Representatives by a voice vote on October 16 without a hearing, just three days after 60 MINUTES (wrongly) linked an unknown sniper to "people with severe mental illnesses."

    In defense of the Congress, guns are not a top priority these days. But this does not excuse hurried, sloppy lawmaking that puts the names of millions of blameless Americans in a federal criminal database. And that is exactly what the House Bill does and what the Senate will consider doing if and when S. 2826 reaches the floor.

    CONTACT YOUR SENATOR TODAY! Also contact Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. The Senate will adjourn soon.

    IT'S EASY! Go to /GOOGLE, enter "senate members", then click Google Search, and locate your senators. A phone call to would be the most effective, but regular mail and e-mail are good too.

    Suggested message: I object to the "Our Lady of Peace Act" S. 2826. The Bill is overly broad and contains obsolete terms such as "mental defective." Every citizen ever committed involuntarily to psychiatric care -- regardless of the nature of the person's illness or reason for the commitment -- would be be listed on a criminal database. PLEASE VOTE NO.


    (Item 3) ARE LANGUAGE, STEREOTYPIC THINKING, AND PUBLIC POLICY CLOSELY LINKED?

    The "Our Lady of Peace Act" (S. 2826) amends an existing law. The amendment, now under consideration in the U.S. Senate, would add to a federal criminal database countless numbers of diverse individuals who are often referred to as "the mentally ill."

    That a benign-sounding common phrase may spawn and perpetuate stereotypic thinking and bad public policy is confirmed in the following comments from Harold A. Maio, an activist and linguaphile in Ft. Myers, Florida. We received Harold's comments by E-mail on November 6.

    "THE" by HAROLD A. MAIO

    This week, reporters in the media widely reported that the Supreme Court had addressed executing "the mentally retarded" as unconsitutional. Reporters went on to say that if the Court voted to hear an appeal from James Coburn, a man with a mental illness facing execution, it would be addressing the constitutionality of executing "the mentally ill."

    I have seen none of the legal papers, but if those phrases appear in them I would like to address each as false and misleading. Each is Grammar of Prejudice with historical precedents.

    Nazi doctors wanted to execute "the" mentally retarded and "the" mentally ill, and when they were not stopped progressed to "the" Jews and many other generically labeled peoples.

    It seems terribly wrong to encounter that same metaphor in America's news. I sincerely hope "the mentally ill" is not in the vocabulary of court members, or lawyers.

    Jews are not generic. People with mental retardation are not generic. And people with mental illnesses are not generic The suggestion that each is ought to raise the hackles on people's necks, for it recalls the error of a history we though we had learned.

    Harold A. Maio
    8955 Forest Street,
    Ft. Myers, FL 33907
    E-mai: khmaio@earthlink.net



    LINKS TO RELATED READING * RELATED READING * RELATED READING

    Sniper Gun Among Weapons Missing from Store

    (See Nov. 10 NEWS for more LINKS to related reading)

    November 10, 2002 - News of the Week


    PROPOSED LAW WOULD PUT LAW-ABIDING PEOPLE ON CRIMINAL CHECKLIST

    Judging from confused reports, the media is baffled by a proposed federal gun law amendment that will put names of law-abiding psychiatric patients and ex-patients on a "criminal" list. One example is a rush by "60 MINUTES" to plug the bill by linking it (wrongly) to a then-nameless serial sniper near Washington DC.  (In eerie proof of "60 MINUTES' " power to influence, three days after Steve Croft told viewers the bill had been "gutted in committee," it passed the House unanimously without discussion.)

    Mental health advocates fear further erosion of the civil rights of millions of individuals with mental illnesses, many of whom have spent time involuntarily in psychiatric institutions for reasons totally unrelated to guns, violence, or crime.
     
    If the law passes the U. S. Senate, the names of millions of law-abiding citizens will be added to a federal checklist alongside people convicted of felonies, domestic violence, and other illegal acts.
     
    A brief background: New York's U. S. Representative Carolyn McCarthy and U. S. Senator Charles Schumer have proposed federal legislation to expand the computer database of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.  The database is used to screen applicants for long gun purchases.  The legislators presumably believe that a bigger database will lower the nation's toll of homicides (now about 16,500 annually) and reduce gun-related crimes.
     
    In the House, #HR4757 passed on October 16 by voice vote without a hearing or discussion!  Senate Bill #S2826 may reach the Senate floor in November.  The bill was triggered by the tragic shooting deaths on March 12, 2002 of a Long Island priest and a parishioner.  The shooter, well known for previous acts of violence, eluded the fragmented, understaffed system -- a failure that now may affect countless lives nationwide.
     
    Basically, the Schumer/McCarthy legislation gives states financial support to supply information to the U. S. Justice Department on seven categories of people who are barred from buying firearms by a 1968 federal law, plus two newly added groups. 
    Under the 1968 law, to qualify for gun ownership a person must state that he or she: "(i.) is not under indictment for and has not been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding 1 year: (ii.) is not a fugitive from justice: (iii.) is not an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act): (iv.) has not been adjudicated as a mental defective or been committed to a mental institution: (v.) is not an alien who is illegally or unlawfully in the United States: (vi.) has not been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions; and (vii.) is not a person who, having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced such citizenship."
     
    The amendment prohibits two new groups from purchasing guns: Individuals who are subject to a court order restraining them from domestic violence, and individuals who have been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor.
     
    The national criminal background checklist was set up in 1994 as part of the Brady Bill.  Since that time, data supplied by state and local law enforcement agencies to the federal database has been seriously incomplete.  The proposed amendment's introduction states that many thousands of criminals have obtained firearms because 25 states have automated less than 60 percent of their felony criminal conviction records. An estimated 25-30 percent of states lack automated records of domestic violence and misdemeanor convictions; 33 states do not share mental health records.

    The new proposed legislation provides $375 million over 3 years to states to improve their record keeping and reporting to NICS of information regarding individuals barred from having a gun.
     
    The bill is called the "Our Lady of Peace Act" to commemorate the two individuals slain at the Roman Catholic church in Lynbrook, Long Island on March 12th. But why have the bill's authors and the press put such emphasis on psychiatric patients when this group ranks far below others in risk of gun violence? 

    Does "mental defective" include people with Alzheimer's disease, dementia, retardation, and other neurological impairments?  Will their names be entered in the database?  And what mechanism will supply data to the NICS about users and addicts of controlled substances (category iii.) ?
     
    The Schumer/McCarthy bill reminds us of the earlier campaign for the Brady Bill to stem gun fatalities.  Gun control activists targeted "madmen" and "the John Hinckleys of the world" as major threats to public safety.  Then as now, blame for the nation's gun violence fell disproportionately on people with mental illnesses.  Why blame a group whose violent acts are a mere blip in the staggering number of gun-related crimes in our society?
     
    Rep. McCarthy has suffered unbearable loss from gunfire.  Her husband died and her son was seriously injured when Colin Ferguson opened fire on a Long Island commuter train in 1993, killing 6 people and wounding 19 others.  It has been apparently forgotten, however, that Ferguson purchased his 9 mm. semi-automatic pistol in a state with strict gun laws (California) and the purchase was entirely legal.  After filling out a sheaf of state and federal application forms, Ferguson waited for a mandated 15 days before picking up the weapon.  Furthermore, he had no record of involuntary psychiatric commitment (nor voluntary inpatient or outpatient treatment) and would not have appeared on the NICS checklist even if the new law had been in effect.  A similar story applies to John Hinckley.
     
    Rep. McCarthy admits that trying to modernize the archaic 1968 law would be doomed to failure.  Therefore she is willing to accept a flawed amendment.  While we share the desire of our legislators to end gun violence, even before its passage the proposed bill is inflicting prejudice, discrimination, injustice, and anguish on millions of innocent individuals.

    ACTION IS NEEDED BEFORE THE SENATE VOTES ! As it stands, the bill will cause broad damage.

  • URGENT! Contact your U. S. Senators in both their district offices and in Washington. The Senate will resume session in mid-November. For contact info: call 1-800-839-5276. Google Search is an excellent resource for senate members, senate schedule, etc. etc.

     
  • Let the bill's authors know your views.
    U. S. Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy
    1224 Longworth House Office Building
    Washington, DC 20515
    Tel: 202-225-5516; Fax 202-225-5757
    District Office: 1 Fulton Avenue, Suite 30
    Hempstead, NY 11550
    Tel: 516-489-7066; Fax 516-489-7283   
     
    U. S. Senator Charles E. Schumer
    313 Hart Senate Office Building
    Washington, DC 20510
    Tel: 202-224-6542; Fax 202-228-3027
    District Office: 757 Third Avenue, Suite 17-02
    New York, NY 10017
    Tel: 212-486-430; Fax 212-486-7693
        
  • We urge respected public figures whose history includes an involuntary psychiatric treatment experience to step forward and point out the flaws in this overly sweeping amendment.

  • The following message was recommended by the New York Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS):

    "I'M A REGISTERED VOTER FROM (your locality) WHO URGES THE SENATOR TO PUT A HOLD ON THE "OUR LADY OF PEACE ACT" (S. 2826) BECAUSE WE BELIEVE IT UNINTENTIONALLY WOULD DISCRIMINATE AGAINST THE RIGHTS OF AMERICANS WITH PSYCHIATRIC DISABILITIES. I URGE THAT CORRECTIONS BE MADE IN THE BILL BEFORE IT IS APPROVED BY CONGRESS."


    RELATED READING * RELATED READING * RELATED READING

    "Database Threatens Privacy, Could Lead to Discrimination," Bazelon Center

    NAMI Special Alert! Congress Links Guns to Mental Illness

    "Warnings Unheeded: County Was Unable to Monitor 'Violent' Patient Because He Could Not Be Found"

    "Federal Bill Orders States to Give Data for Gun Sales" 

    SENATE BILL  S. 2826
    Go to Google, enter "senate legislation", click Google Search, scroll to "Thomas", enter S. 2826, click search.

    Senator Schumer's press release, July 30, 2002: New Bill Would Close Gun Law Holes That Led to Slaying of Priest
     
    Rep. McCarthy's press release (undated): Our Lady of Peace Unanimously Passes the U. S. House of Representatives
     
     System Failed Despite Kendra's Law -- Is Another New Law the Answer?

    CBS Rush To Judgment Sensationalizes Mental Illnesses (See Antistigma Home Page, Recent News, Oct. 13)

    NOTE: If you have difficulty finding any of the above references, we will be happy to mail the information to you. E-mail request to stigmanet@webtv.net

  • November 3, 2002 - News of the Week

    GOVERNOR PATAKI SYSTEMATICALLY SHORTCHANGED THE MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM, REPORT REVEALS

    Governor George E. Pataki's apparent efforts to dismantle New York's mental health system are disclosed in a scathing report issued by Martin A. Luster, Chairman of the Assembly Mental Health Committee. For a copy of the full report, Broken Promises, Broken Lives: A Report of the State of the Mental Health Delivery System in New York, call Mr. Luster's office at 518-455-5444. The Executive Summary is posted on Capitol Wire: Click here to subscribe.

    Among the report's charges: The Governor ignored the state's discharge planning laws; he bypassed statutes requiring planning for services; he derailed hundreds of $$$millions earmarked for mental health improvements; he emasculated requirements to report abuse of adults with mental illnesses living in adult homes and nursing homes.

    "The Governor should take credit for his administration's accomplishments; he must also take responsibility for its failures," Luster said. "The mental health system is broken. The failure of the Governor to exercise his constitutional duty...has created a public health crisis and is a violation of the public trust [emphasis added]."

    "The only time this Governor has responded to issues related to conditions at adult homes has been as the result of media exposure," Chairman Luster said at a Committee public hearing in May.

    The mental health community is vast in size and blessed with dedicated, talented leaders. But the constituency has little to attract an ambitious politician (*note below), and it speaks softly despite its large numbers.

    To expose the Governor's callous disregard for laws and public duty, the state's 250,000 people with serious mental illnesses (and millions more friends and families) clearly need help from investigative reporters and other key media figures with integrity. Only then will we possibly win more responsible action from the Governor.

    *Note: Except for rare acts of violence

    October 13, 2002 - News of the Week

    CBS "RUSH TO JUDGMENT" SENSATIONALIZES MENTAL ILLNESSES ONCE AGAIN!

    Links unknown "sniper on a killing spree" to "severe mental illnesses"

    Using bogus homicide numbers and a bumbling choice of archive materials, "Armed and Dangerous," (a 60 Minutes segment, October 13) tried to link a proposed federal gun law amendment, a series of sniper murders, and mental illnesses. Not enough time was spent on opposing facts and views, and people with mental illnesses were made to seem like one of society's most dangerous populations.

    This is just the latest example of "Walking Time Bomb" stories on 48 Hours, 60 Minutes, and 60 Minutes II. The earliest example in our CBS News file is a report in 1987 by Bernard Goldberg. Mr. Goldberg mentioned some form of "killing" 20 times in the 4-minute "news" piece, which concerned five violent incidents committed by "deranged" people over an unspecified number of years.

    Last night, "Armed and Dangerous" tried to weave together stories about the present sniper killer in Maryland; a proposed gun law to add involutarily-committed psychiatric patients to federal criminal databases; and high-profile shootings by Colin Ferguson (1993), Russell Westin (1995) , Michael McDermott (2000), and Peter Troy (2002). Only Mr. Westin and Mr. Troy had any history of involuntary institutionalization, meaning that the gun law amendment would not have red-flagged the other two men for gun checks.

    The important story missed is that Westin and Troy are prime examples of dismal mental health system failure. Mr. Westin was known both to the system and the FBI as someone who desperately needed help. Mr. Troy was also well-known as deeply disturbed and needing intensive care. Both cases show negligence at all levels of government to fund the required programs.

    Most outrageous were the lead-in statements by Steve Croft: "Why is it so hard to stop deranged gunmen from terrorizing American communities, like the sniper who has terrorized Maryland?" And, "Every year across the United States, nearly 1,000 homicides are committed by people with severe mental illness."

    The initial statement has two flaws. First, it assumes that the Maryland sniper is "deranged," at a time when there is absolutely no evidence to that effect. The killer could equally as plausibly be a sociopath, or an El Queda terrorist, or simply an angry boy of the Columbine type. Secondly, it implies that such activity is going on almost routinely across America, when anyone who reads the newspapers knows it is not.

    The second statement includes the infamous "1,000 homicides" statistic that originated in the fevered imagination of Dr. Fuller Torrey, and is unsupported by any scientific evidence.

    In addition, the program failed to stress the existence of various sub-populations in this country that are far more violence-prone than people with mental illnesses.

    One has to express dismay at such a sloppy, misshapen piece of journalism. It certainly falls far below the standards we have come to expect from 60 Minutes.

    This segment must not be repeated. Contact 60 Minutes and executives at CBS.

    E-mail: 60m@cbs.com
    E-mail Viewer comment: audsvcs@cbs.com

    Telephone comment: 212-975-3247

    Mail: Don Hewitt, 60 Minutes, CBS News, 524 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019

    David F. Poltrack, Senior V.P., Research & Planning, CBS, Inc., 51 West 52nd St., New York, NY 10019

    For a transcript ($9 + $3 fee for tel.), call 1-800-777-8398
    RELATED READING

    New Study Finds Social Risk Factors For Violence

    October 6, 2002 - News of the Week

    MORE UGLY SECRETS IN NEW YORK

    Psychiatric Patients Are Discharged From Institutions, Then Locked Up In Nursing Homes For the Elderly


    Go to New York Times Article (You may need to register, a painless task)

    or See Article Reprint Below

    Several months ago in a series of front-page articles, the New York Times described scandalous conditions in "adult homes" that house 15,000 New Yorkers diagnosed with mental illnesses. Advocates had long complained of neglect and malfeasance at the homes, but it took exposure of the scandal by Times reporter Clifford J. Levy to get the state's attention. Now, at least major reform seems to be under discussion.

    Today's Times reports yet another scandal. Mr. Levy discovered that in 1996, without public notice, the Pataki administration authorized owners of nursing homes (designed mainly for elderly residents) to set aside restricted living space for people with psychiatric disabilities. The new residents -- including many in their 30's and 40's who are physically healthy -- are virtually imprisoned by means of locked elevators, electronic bracelets, and doors with alarms.

    Mr. Levy writes, "The units are just the latest development of the troubled evolution of New York's mental health network over the last century. As the state continues to empty out its costly adult psychiatric hospitals [22 in number], it appears to be moving even further from what it says had been a fundamental goal: helping the mentally ill gain independence and self-sufficiency to live within a community."

    Despite the state's enormous savings ($120,000 annually for an institutional "bed" vs. $20,000 for a nursing home "bed" after Medicaid shares the cost), advocates must battle continuously for funds just to keep the state's meager supply of community mental heath programs afloat. Most of the hefty savings from the shutdown of institutional beds has been spent outside the mental health system.

    RELATED READING


    "Mentally Ill and Locked Up in New York Nursing Homes"
    by CLIFFORD J. LEVY
    The New York Times, October 6, 2002  

    Hundreds of patients released from state psychiatric hospitals in New York in recent years are being locked away on isolated floors of nursing homes, where they are barred from going outside on their own, have almost no contact with others and have little ability to contest their confinement, according to interviews with workers and experts and visits to the homes.

    The Pataki administration approved the creation of the special units for the mentally ill in 1996, but has otherwise left them unregulated. The nursing homes generally lack mental health expertise, and have not sought licenses to operate locked floors.

    As a result, some experts said, the administration was allowing the homes to violate state regulations governing the care of the mentally ill and in the process was depriving them of their civil rights.

    The conditions in the locked units, which the administration authorized with no public notice, were uncovered in a four-month investigation by The New York Times. The investigation was based on multiple visits to the homes - many are in New York City - as well as more than 50 interviews with residents, relatives, workers and officials.

    The units are in nursing homes that mainly care for the elderly. They are not part of the separate system of adult homes for the mentally ill, which were the focus of a series of articles in The Times earlier this year that detailed extensive neglect and malfeasance.
    The units are just the latest development in the troubled evolution of New York's mental health network over the last half-century. As the state continues to empty out its costly psychiatric hospitals, it appears to be moving even further from what it says had been a fundamental goal: helping the mentally ill gain independence and self-sufficiency to live within a community.

    The investigation of the nursing home units shows that the mentally ill residents - many in their 30's and 40's and physically healthy - often receive little in the way of rehabilitative therapy and are chiefly left to wander the halls or languish in their rooms. The residents are not violent and have not been involuntarily committed by a court.

    Yet on the fourth floor of the New Surfside nursing home in Far Rockaway, Queens, about 50 mentally ill people are prevented from going outside by locked elevators and fire doors with alarms. Residents at the nearby Haven Manor nursing home are outfitted with electronic bracelets that trigger an alarm should they try to leave. And at the Woodmere nursing home in Nassau County, residents have broken windows in a desperate bid for freedom, workers said.

    Gov. George E. Pataki would not comment for this article. Administration officials and a main operator of the homes disputed that the floors are technically locked. They said the units are merely secured, and thus do not legally require a special license. The officials said the units provided quality care and did not confine residents against their will.

    Visits to the homes and interviews with workers and residents like Leonard Holloway indicated otherwise. Mr. Holloway, who is 48 and has schizophrenia, was not allowed outside Haven Manor until late last month, three months after arriving at the home and only after being visited by a reporter.

    ``You feel like you´re in a - like you´re a prisoner in here,´´ said Mr. Holloway, once a clerk at the main branch of the New York Public Library.

    Tacked on the wall over his bed is evidence of what he has accomplished during his stay: three children's jigsaw puzzles that he put together during recreation time.

    Many mental health advocates and lawyers were unaware of the units and voiced dismay when told of the restrictions.

    ``I have never heard of this type of facility in the 12-plus years that I have been doing this,´´ said Tim Clune, managing attorney for Disability Advocates, a nonprofit legal office in Albany. ``I am very surprised that this exists, and that the state would allow this to exist. This is de facto involuntary commitment. These people´s civil rights are being violated.´´

    Administration officials said they did not know exactly how many units were operating. The State Office of Mental Health estimated that at least a dozen existed, suggesting that as many as 1,000 mentally ill people lived in them. Yet the office, which was responsible for discharging the patients from the state psychiatric hospitals to the units, has chosen not to take a role in overseeing them or ensuring that residents receive proper care.

    The administration's chief nursing home regulators, Dr. Antonia C. Novello, the state health commissioner, and Wayne Osten, a senior health official, said the units were appropriate and had been examined by officials during routine inspections of the homes. They said the units, which the department refers to as ``neurobiological units,´´ did not need additional regulations.

    ``The residents can leave the units if they want,´´ Mr. Osten said. ``From our standpoint, there are means of egress for the residents.´´

    Mr. Osten said it would be incorrect to call the units locked, explaining that while elevators were often ``keyed,´´ as he described them, the fire doors were only alarmed.

    But workers said in interviews that residents are told that under no circumstances are they permitted outside on their own. The workers said the floors were confined to prevent the mentally ill residents from mixing with elderly residents on other floors. The restrictions also allow the homes to avoid hiring more staff to keep track of the mentally ill residents, the workers said.

    An aide to Benjamin Landa, who is a partner in four homes with units, said state officials knew about the restrictions imposed on residents, adding that health and mental health officials had repeatedly visited the homes. The aide, Frank Iannucci, said the residents agreed to the conditions before they were admitted.

    ``This is a voluntary program,´´ Mr. Iannucci said. ``All the clients are told exactly what is on the unit.´´

    Legal experts like Mr. Clune dismissed that
    assertion, saying that psychiatric wards are sending the patients directly to the units and the patients have little say in the matter.  

    In addition, the residents have not been deemed by the state to be a danger to themselves or others, which is typically the legal standard used to keep someone in a locked hospital psychiatric ward. Because the units are not licensed as psychiatric facilities, the residents also do not have the legal protections guaranteed to patients committed to psychiatric wards: the right to a lawyer, and to a hearing to contest having their freedom taken away.

    ``I would like to go out, but they won´t let me,´´ said a New Surfside resident who is in his 40's. ``I´m trapped. And I didn´t expect this.´´

    The Council and Regulation
    The units were first developed in the mid-1990's by Mr. Landa, one of the city's most prominent nursing home operators, and his staff in conjunction with the administration.

    Mr. Landa has been a major contributor to Governor Pataki's campaigns and was appointed by the governor to the State Public Health Council, which is essentially an arm of the State Health Department that helps regulate hospitals and nursing homes.
    Mr. Landa is a partner in four nursing homes that have a total of 200 beds in the special units: New Surfside and Brookhaven in Far Rockaway; Meadow Park in Flushing, Queens; and Woodmere in Nassau County.

    The State Public Health Council has opted not to require regulation of the units, which have since gone on to accept patients from the psychiatric wards of general hospitals as well. Regulations typically are intended to ensure that residents receive proper mental health services and that their rights are being protected.

    Despite repeated requests, the Health Department would not provide information on Mr. Landa's activities on the council, or on whether he was involved in council deliberations on the units.

    Asked whether Mr. Landa's ties to the governor had influenced the department's scrutiny of the units, Dr. Novello said, ``Absolutely not.´´

    Mr. Landa would not be interviewed. In a statement, he said he had never sought to prevent the units from being regulated. ``To the contrary, such regulations would further validate the significance of these important programs,´´ the statement said. ``Therefore, I would welcome such oversight.´´

    His aide, Mr. Iannucci, said the units provided a therapeutic environment where psychiatrists visit twice a week, and a social worker is there daily. Many residents do so well that within a year, they are discharged to residential facilities, he said.

    He also described the elevators on the floors not as locked, but rather as ``key-operated.´´ He added that residents who had been deemed stable enough are eventually allowed to come and go as they please.

    In separate interviews, seven workers on the Landa units all said residents were never granted such privileges. ``No one can come and go as they please,´´ said a New Surfside worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity. ``It´s a locked unit. They are not allowed off.´´

    Pacing Near the Elevator
    Multiple visits to several of the nursing home units in the city, as well as interviews with dozens of workers, residents and their families, revealed facilities that are generally orderly and clean, but very much reminiscent of old-style institutions.

    Isolated on the units, some residents see access to the elevators as their only escape. That was apparent on a visit to New Surfside, when a glimpse of an elevator key was enough to transform the quiet pacing of one resident into a frantic dash down the hall.

    ``Going home? Going home?´´ the man shouted as a worker unlocked the elevator to let a visitor out. The man tried to make it inside, but was blocked by the worker. The doors shut, the lock was reactivated and the resident went back to pacing.

    Nearby, a young man, his stringy blond hair covered by a straw hat, rocked back and forth silently. Other residents sat motionless in their chairs in the television room, watching ``Access Hollywood´´ or nodding off. A daily activities schedule hung on the wall. Most of the time was devoted to meals, smoking breaks or what was referred to as ``recreation.´´

    The homes provide some therapy, but interviews and visits showed that the residents are mostly idle. Workers said residents are allowed outside only if they are accompanied by an aide, typically a few times a week for less than a hour at a time. At some of the homes, residents can lose the privilege of being escorted outside if they are disruptive, workers and residents said.

    ``Generally, you will hear them complaining that they want to leave,´´ said a Brookhaven worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity. ``There is not much for them to do. They are just basically locked down on that floor.´´

    At Haven Manor, the elevators are not locked, but workers prevent residents from leaving the floor without permission, and residents are often required to wear electronic bracelets. Haven Manor's operator, Daniel Cantor, did not respond to three messages seeking comment.

    In interviews, some residents of the units said they did not mind being confined, while others did not seem lucid enough to be aware of the restrictions. But some were clearly bothered by them and said that being in the units made their mental illness worse.
    ``I like my freedom,´´ said Peter Frange, a resident at Brookhaven. ``Everybody likes their freedom. This isn´t healthy. We don´t get enough fresh air.´´

    Mr. Frange, 44, implored a reporter to help him get discharged to the Ocean House adult home, where he once lived. The state has long rated Ocean House one of the worst adult homes in the city, and is moving to revoke its license.

    Governor Pataki has often made the mental health budget a target for cuts. By transferring patients to nursing homes, the administration realizes sizable savings.

    It costs Albany $120,000 annually to treat a patient in a state psychiatric hospital. Discharge that same person to a nursing home and the bill typically goes to Medicaid, half of which is covered by Washington (Albany splits the rest with localities). So a mentally ill resident of the New Surfside nursing home, for example, might cost the state roughly $20,000 annually.

    There are now 4,300 beds in the state psychiatric system, down from 9,000 when Mr. Pataki took office in 1995.

    Shifting the Burden
    While moving the mentally ill from hospitals to nursing homes in New York and elsewhere is not a new idea, it had typically been handled much more haphazardly. In the 1970's and 1980's, as deinstitutionalization took hold across the nation, the mentally ill population in nursing homes soared as states sought to shift the burden of mental health costs to Washington and avoid creating new housing for the mentally ill.

    After reports of abuse and mismanagement surfaced, the federal government responded with measures intended to restrict the flow. Ultimately, in 1987, Congress mandated that states screen potential residents to ensure that they were not being inappropriately placed in nursing homes.

    Pataki aides said they were abiding by the federal rules.

    Just as with the creation of the adult home system more than three decades ago, the nursing home units came about with no planning or involvement from outside mental health experts, according to officials.

    Some advocacy groups warned that with the nursing home units, the state was in danger of repeating the mistakes that it made with the adult homes: placing the mentally ill in facilities that were not meant for them, in an effort to reduce the size of the psychiatric hospitals and save money.

    One group, the Coalition of Institutionalized Aged and Disabled, which learned of the nursing home units only late last year, said that if residents were well enough to be discharged from psychiatric wards, it was illegal to continue to confine them in facilities that have little psychiatric expertise.

    ``These are the new adult homes in the making,´´ said Geoff Lieberman, the coalition´s executive director. ``Residents who are inappropriate for nursing homes are being admitted, sometimes under false pretenses.´´

    The state mental health commissioner, James L. Stone, denied that the creation of the units had anything to do with money. ``The goal is the most appropriate care in a less restrictive standing in the community,´´ Mr. Stone said. ``Are we under some pressure to do this to cut costs? The answer to that is no.´´

    Mr. Stone called the units excellent long-term housing. ``They have met a real need for some people who have been languishing in our state hospitals,´´ he said.

    (Copyright New York Times 2002)

    September 28, 2002 - News of the Week

    IS DR. AMADOR'S "INSIGHT THEORY" GETTING A BAD RAP?

    In Wisconsin this summer, the state's civil commitment law survived a challenge in the State Supreme Court.

    In losing the case (Wisconsin v. Dennis H), the appellants lost their attempt to overturn the Wisconsin commitment law's "Fifth Standard." This standard allows medication to be forced on individuals who do not pose a danger to themselves or others. Wisconsin's four other commitment standards require substantial probability of physical harm either to self or others.

    In upholding the Fifth Standard, the Court handed a victory to proponents of forced medication. In an amicus curiae brief, the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC) argued that patients' lack of insight necessitated the Fifth Standard, which broadens the courts' power to overrule patients' objections to medication. To give scientific weight to their argument, the TAC cited the work of Dr. Xavier Amador, among others. Dr. Amador is a foremost researcher on the subject of "lack of insight" among people diagnosed with mental illnesses. His work is frequently cited by forced medication advocates to justify harsher involuntary commitment laws.

    So often is Dr. Amador's work cited by coercion advocates, we assumed that he too supports coercion. Not true. In fact, Amador views coercion as counter-productive. His approach to treatment, described in his book, I Am Not Sick; I Don't Need Help!, tells families and caregivers how to avoid the power struggles that so often poison relationships and derail efforts to "help." It is therefore incongruous that Dr. Amador's name is closely associated with the Treatment Advocacy Center and its state-by-state efforts to broaden court-ordered medication laws.

    The Court did not hear that Amador sees coercion as counter-productive or at best a temporary fix for a person's "unawareness." It did not hear Amador's view, developed over years of experience with patients and his own brother, that a partnership approach to treatment is far more effective and achieves more lasting results. It did not hear about his meticulously detailed and compassionate guide for helping patients and caregivers to work together in a non-coercive way.

    To suggest that Dr. Amador is a mainstay supporter of involuntary treatment, one must ignore all that he espouses.

    RELATED READING


    BOOK: I Am Not Sick, I Don't Need Help, by Xavier Amador, Ph.D.

    ON THE WEB:
    "A Victory for Treatment" by TAC


    September 22, 2002 - News of the Week

    REPORT: MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM OVER-RELIES ON MEDICATION

    FAILS TO MEET BASIC HUMAN NEEDS, SUCH AS HOUSING


    The National Council on Disability issued on Monday a report
    (Go to Report) calling for public mental health systems to be "driven by a value system that sees recovery as achievable and desirable to every person who has experienced a mental illness." Thirty years of "entrenched forces and stale thinking" have produced homelessness, poverty, criminalization, and unemployment. While there is no single antidote for the current "crisis-oriented" system, the report recommends visionary leadership and adequate funding for high-quality programs.

    The National Council on Disability (NCD) is an independent federal agency making recommendations to the President and Congress on issues affecting 54 million Americans with disabilities. NCD is composed of 15 members appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Website: http:www.ncd.gov/

    RELATED READING

  • "Report: Mental Health System Lacking," SIOBHAN McDONOUGH, The Associated Press. Enter "search" using article title.

  • "The Well Being of Our Nation: An Inter-Generational Vision of Effective Mental Health Services and Supports," National Council on Disability

    Note: If you have trouble finding the information, we will send it to you. Email stigmanet@webtv.net. Be sure to include a mailing address.

  • September 15, 2002 - News of the Week

    NDMDA CHANGES ITS NAME TO DBSA

    The National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association has changed its name to DEPRESSION AND BIPOLAR SUPPORT ALLIANCE

    The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) announced its new name at its 15th annual convention in Orlando, Florida in August. The self-help peer-run organization is gaining momentum and sees its name change as part of a "relaunch" of its chapters nationwide.

    The DBSA also unveiled a new strategic plan calling for an increased focus on co-occurring disorders, dual diagnosis, and the creation of materials to help family members support the patient, said Lydia Lewis, DBSA's Executive Director.

    The clinical diagnostic term "bipolar" is far more precise and effective than "manic-depressive." When everyday words are used to name a clinical diagnosis, problems are likely to follow. "Manic" and "mania" are stock words in advertising, often with a pejorative twist. Journalists and writers love the word "manic" judging from its popularity in newspapers and magazines.

    But a word that is used to sell merchandise or describe the current "mania for accountability" or "manic market run-up" is not suitable for a serious and often-disabling illness. Psychiatrists realized this when they replaced "mania" with "bipolar disorder" in their diagnostic manual.

    FOR MORE INFORMATION, GO TO DBSA's WEBSITE

    Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)


    September 8, 2002 - News of the Week


    TORREY TWISTS MEANING OF SURGEON GENERAL'S REPORT

    Mistakes "Fear of Violence" To Mean "Violence"

    On many occasions we have objected to Dr. E. Fuller Torrey's fear-mongering statements about violence and mental illnesses. We have equally criticized his tendency to misrepresent the work of others to promote his opinions.

    Yesterday's mail brought yet another example of how Dr. Torrey skews information. In a letter, "Stigma and Violence," in Psychiatric Services (the September issue), Torrey misrepresents a carefully-worded section on "Public Attitudes About Mental Illness" in the Surgeon General's report on mental health (DHHS 1999). Specifically, Torrey distorts passages in the report concerning the public's exaggerated fear of violence (pages 7-8).

    In his letter, Dr. Torrey misconstrues "fear of violence" to mean "violence." He then applies this distorted meaning to his often-repeated claim that "the most important cause of stigma is violence." Presto! The Surgeon General appears to agree that violence is a big problem, when in truth he has stated the opposite view.

    The Surgeon General's report, citing numerous studies, concluded that the public's fear is disproportionate to the low risk of violence. In the words of the report, "Because most people should have little reason to fear violence from people with mental illness, even in its most severe forms, why is fear of violence so entrenched?"

    Unfazed by facts, however, Torrey writes, "It seems clear from the Surgeon General's report, as well as from research studies, that little progress will be made in decreasing stigma until we address the issue of violence."

    The key question is "Why is fear of violence so entrenched?" The research necessary to resolve this critical question has not yet been done.

    RELATED READING


    On The Web:

  • Letter from Dr. Torrey, Psychiatric Services, Sept. 2002. (Registration is required.)

  • Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General; Chapter 1, click "Introduction and Themes," scroll to "Public Attitudes About Mental Illness 1950's-1990's." (.html and .pdf format)

  • All reports of the Surgeon General (1999) (For your interest!)

  • Forced Medication and Fear Tactics (National Stigma Clearinghouse)

    If you have trouble reaching the above sources, we will send you copies of Dr. Torrey's letter and the relevant passage in the report. Call 212-255-4411, or e-mail your request to stigmanet@webtv.net. Don't forget to include a mailing address.

  • September 1, 2002 - News of the Week

    In the American Journal of Public Health, September 2002
    NEW STUDY FINDS SOCIAL RISK FACTORS FOR VIOLENT BEHAVIOR

    Needed: Housing and Treatment Programs for Substance Misuse (More info below)

    "If we're worried about violence among people with serious mental illnesses, we need to pay far more attention to finding safe housing in decent neighborhoods, mitigating the effects of physical and sexual victimization, and aggressively treating substance-abuse issues." Are these the words of a mental health activist?

    No, it's researcher Marvin Swartz commenting on the findings of a just-published study led by Jeffrey Swanson of the Duke University Medical Center. Swanson's research team analyzed data from 802 individuals diagnosed with "severe" mental illnesses in four eastern seaboard states from New Hampshire to North Carolina.

    A press release from Duke University states, "People with severe mental illnesses are highly unlikely to become violent toward others unless they have additional risk factors combined with their psychiatric disorder."

    This study adds to a body of research refuting the popular belief that people with mental illnesses are prone to violence. Swanson noted that acts of violence are quite uncommon and that most violence that occurs "appears to be attributable to factors outside of mental illness."

    In fact, people with mental illnesses are more likely to be victims of assault than perpetrators. Researchers at North Carolina State University and Duke University reported in 1999 that people with psychiatric disabilities are attacked at a rate 2-1/2 times higher than the general population.

    The new Duke study found three environmental risk factors that, when combined, increase the likelihood of violence. People who have been victims of violence during childhood, live in neighborhoods where violence is common, and have substance abuse problems were ten times likelier to report assaulting someone than others in the study.

    Without any of these risk factors, people with severe mental illnesses were no more likely to engage in violent behaviors than people in the general population without a psychiatric disorder.

    The study, titled "The Social-Environmental Context of Violent Behavior in Persons Treated for Severe Mental Illnesses" by Jeffrey Swanson, Marvin Swartz, Susan Essock, Fred Osher, H. Ryan Wagner, Lisa Goodman, Stanley Rosenberg, and Keith Meador, was published in the September 2002 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 92, No. 9.

    An earlier study led by Duke researchers (April 2000) examined "involuntary outpatient commitment" as a way to stem violence. The one-year study involved 262 individuals involuntarily hospitalized with "severe" mental illnesses. The finding: court-ordered treatment of at least 6 months' duration reduced incidents of violence from 42% to 26%. Although the result was heralded by proponents of court-mandated treatment, critics pointed out that coercion is futile in a system that lacks resources for essential services, including housing and drug treatment programs.

    The new social-risks study examines the roots of violent behavior. This is important for policymakers seeking long-term solutions.

    RELATED READING


    On the Web:
    DukeMed News Release

    To request the published article, contact:
    Jeffrey Swanson, Ph.D.

    Associate Professor
    Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
    Duke University Medical Center Box 3071
    Brightleaf Square Suite 23-A
    905 West Main Street
    Durham, NC 27710
    E-mail: jswanson@psych.mc.duke.edu
    Phone: (919) 682-4827 Fax: (919) 682-1907
    Additional Information

    August 25 - News of the Week

    HOW CAN "CRIMINALIZATION" BE STOPPED?

    (See LINKS to Resources Below)

    Across the nation, a staggering number of people with mental illnesses are jailed every year simply because the help they need to survive is not available. Their crimes are minor offenses traceable to psychosis or other disabling psychiatric symptoms, sometimes combined with drugs or alcohol use, and homelessness.

    Will "mental health courts" using "jail diversion" methods solve the problem?

    It is clear that jails and prisons have become the dumping ground for people abandoned by the mental health system. This expanding role of the criminal justice system raises valid concerns. Will the result be greater pressure for social conformity and coercion? Will histories and records lose rights to privacy? Will funds come out of existing voluntary programs?

    In June, the "Criminal Justice / Mental Health Consensus Project" issued a 450-page report urging that agents of change (i.e. key leaders) and stakeholders (i.e. communities) work as partners to "improve the criminal justice system's response to people with mental illnesses." It is important for advocates to understand the report's contents and voice their views.

    What is "criminalization"? People with mental illnesses are more likely to be jailed for an incident of disorderly conduct, and their imprisonment is considerably longer, than people without psychiatric disabilities. They acquire "criminal" records because of their illness or disability. The injustice follows them after release when their "criminal" record blocks their attempts to get help.

    What is "jail diversion"? This is a general term for any intervention that gets people help, not jail. One kind of program is the widely-praised Crisis Intervention Team created by the police department in Memphis, Tennessee, which credits careful police training for its success. (Its motto is "CIT - More Than Just Training"). With the use of specially trained officers, fast response to crisis calls, and 7-day 24-hour coverage, arrests are dramatically reduced.

    What are "mental health courts"? This is a form of "jail diversion" now used in a number of cities. In Psychiatric Services last year, Dr. Henry Steadman wrote that the new courts are "an unclear conceptual model" that "operate somewhat idiosyncratically." Dr. Steadman, a leading expert, found four general criteria (very much shortened here): (1) single-docket booking, (2) a courtroom team approach, (3) assurance of treatment slots, (4) monitoring with possible court sanctions for noncompliance.

    For any kind of "jail diversion" program to work, it is essential that individuals have access to high quality mental health care, substance abuse treatment, housing, and social services. Everyone knows, however, that such programs are in short supply or non-existent. Advocates must battle constantly just to keep the budget axe from destroying successful community programs.

    We confess we have not finished the Consensus Project's report. It is well-presented (except for its small type) and is extremely readable with a minimum of jargon. As we read further we hope to see the following recommendations:

    1) High-quality voluntary programs must be the cornerstone of any new-and-improved mental health system.

    2) Adequate funding must be guaranteed for a comprehensive system that serves everyone diagnosed with serious mental illnesses.

    3) "Treatment" must include a safe place to live, medical care, access to substance abuse programs, social services, an adequate source of income, peer support services, and a recovery-oriented environment.

    4) Community partnerships must assign a planning role to people who have experienced the present mental health system.

    RELATED READING


    ON THE WEB:
    "Criminal Justice / Mental Health Consensus Project," Full Report 450 pages (PDF only)

    "Criminal Justice / Mental Health Consensus Project", Executive Summary (PDF only)

    "The Criminal Justice and Mental Health Consensus Project," MadNation Editorial

    "Mental Health Courts: An Advocate's Perspective," (PDF) by Heather Barr, Urban Justice Center (Click "Mental Health")

    "When A Person With Mental Illness Is Arrested: How To Help," (PDF) by Heather Barr, Urban Justice Center. This booklet is designed for New York but may apply in part to other states.

    About CIT, the Memphis Police Department's Crisis Intervention Team

    National GAINS Center for People with Co-Occurring Disorders in the Criminal Justice System

    Bazelon Center for Mental Health and the Law

    National Alliance for the Mentally Ill on Criminalization


    FREE BROCHURE:
    "Jail Diversion: Creating Alternatives for Persons With Mental Illnesses," Policy Research Associates, Delmar, NY. Order online or call 518-439-7415


    ARTICLE:
    "Law & Psychiatry: Mental Health Courts: Their Promise and Unanswered Questions, by Henry J. Steadman, Ph.D., et. al. Psychiatric Services, April 2001, 52:457-458.

    (To request a copy of the article, call Policy Research Associates, 518-439-7415 or E-mail stigmanet@webtv.net)

    August 18, 2002 - News of the Week

    FREE SELF-HELP GUIDES OFFER WAYS TO DIMINISH SYMPTOMS AND OPEN NEW ROUTES TO RECOVERY

    Seven outstanding guides for dealing with symptoms and moving to mental health wellness are available for the asking!

    These attractive 6 x 9-inch booklets are packed with suggestions based on the first hand experiences of ex-patients/survivors and mental health services recipients.

    Topics include Speaking Out For Yourself, Dealing With The Effects of Trauma, Developing a Lifestyle, Action Planning for Prevention and Recovery, and more.

    Much of the content comes from Mary Ellen Copeland whose writings and talks are applauded throughout the mental health community for their empathy and usefulness.

    The guides are available from a federal government agency, the Center for Mental Health Services (a part of SAMHSA). Order by phone toll free (1-800-789-2647) and ask for the "Recovering Your Mental Health Packet" of seven guides (includes publications #SMA-3504, and #SMA-3715 thru #SMA-3720).

    August 11, 2002 - News of the Week

    Laws against discrimination become easier to enforce when the general public supports them. Please feel free to use or adapt the following "leaflet" as a tool for community education. For a hard copy, e-mail stigmanet@webtv.net. Be sure to include a mailing address.


    TEN WAYS TO FIGHT DISCRIMINATION


    There can be little doubt that prejudice and discrimination plague the lives of people with mental health needs.  Here are ten suggestions for ending this injustice.
     
    1) GO BEYOND THE STEREOTYPES.  Recognize that a diagnosis of a mental illness tells us little about the person.  Such labels do not tell us about the person's specific symptoms or potential for recovery.  They do not tell us about the person's temperament or character.  They do not tell us about the person's accomplishments, creativity, intelligence, or capacity for friendships.
                                                           
    2) LEARN MORE ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESSES. The better informed we are the better we are able to reject the inaccurate negative stereotypes of mental illnesses that are so common. Begin by visiting the websites of the National Mental Health Information Center, http://www.mentalhealth.org, and the National Institute of Mental Health, http://www.nimh.nih.gov.
     
    3) LEARN ABOUT PREJUDICE AND DISCRIMINATION. A good place to start is a book, Telling Is Risky Business, by Otto F. Wahl. Visit Dr. Wahl's website for a resource list. http://mason.gmu.edu/~owahl/INDEX.HTM. The Anti-Stigma Home Page, http://community-2.webtv.net/stigmanet also lists links to many organizations that fight prejudice and discrimination.

    4) LISTEN TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED MENTAL ILLNESSES. Learn from first-hand accounts how psychiatric vulnerabilities affect people's lives. A good source is the book, Telling Is Risky Business. On the Web, use Google Search to find "stories about mental illnesses.".
     
    5) MONITOR MEDIA AND RESPOND TO STIGMATIZING MATERIAL. Work to change the negative ways people with mental illnesses are portrayed in films, television shows, and sensationalized news reports that reach huge audiences on a daily basis.   Write a letter or e-mail the responsible editor, TV producer and sponsor, or filmmaker.  Call 1-800-789-2647 for a free handbook with media directories, "Challenging Stereotypes," (SAMHSA publication #SMA 01-3513).
     
    6) SPEAK UP ABOUT HARMFUL LANGUAGE. When someone you know misuses a psychiatric term, tactfully let him or her know about the inaccuracy and educate them about the correct meaning.  When someone disparages a person with a mental illness, tells a joke that ridicules, or makes disrespectful comments about mental illnesses, let them know that this is hurtful and that such comments are offensive and off limits.
     
    7) RE-EXAMINE COMMON TERMS AND EXPRESSIONS. Most of us, including mental health professionals, thoughtlessly use popular terms and slang expressions that are disrespectful and prejudicial.   We should not depersonalize people by referring to them as "the mentally ill," "the disabled," or label individuals by a diagnosis (i.e. "a schizophrenic").
     
    8) TALK OPENLY ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESSES. The more mental illnesses remain hidden, the more people believe they are shameful and need to be concealed.  Help others to see beyond the stereotypes and accept people who have mental health needs as valued friends, neighbors and co-workers.
     
    9) PROVIDE SUPPORT FOR ORGANIZATIONS THAT FIGHT PREJUDICE AND DISCRIMINATION. The effectiveness of organizations advocating for better treatment and greater acceptance of mental illnesses depends, to some extent, on the support of the mental health community and the concerned public.
     
    10) DEMAND CHANGE FROM YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES. Policies that perpetuate prejudice and discrimination can be changed if enough people let their public officials know that they want such change.  Keep informed on key mental health issues and policies and voice your concern and protest to government officials.
     
    NOTE: This leaflet was adapted from the website of Otto F. Wahl -- http://mason.gmu.edu/~owahl/INDEX.HTM -- and was prepared, with Dr. Wahl's permission, by the National Stigma Clearinghouse, August 11, 2002.

    August 4, 2002 - News of the Week

    WEBSITE MAY FILL EMPTY NICHE WITH PRACTICAL IDEAS AND WEBCASTS

    What's Your View?

    The "Center for Reintegration" website is packed with useful information. Its elegant no-frills layout is a pleasure to navigate. Nearly half of the site's directors are advocates with first-hand experience of mental illnesses.* Can this site become a meeting ground for the mental health community?

    The site addresses a range of important nuts-and-bolts topics aimed at clearing a path to recovery from mental illnesses. This positive "reintegration" message is for people with mental health needs, families, and mental health professionals. Site visitors are encouraged to make use of its message boards, and suggestions are welcomed.

    In a webcast on August 1, an excellent panel tackled the question, "How can the Law be used in a positive way to effect reintegration back into the community?" This engrossing discussion (hosted by law and public policy consultant Fred Levine with panelists Heather Barr of the Urban Justice Center in New York and Katharine A. Clemens of the New York Bar Association) answered thorny questions with specifics. An earlier webcast on May 9 discussed "How to interact with the mental health system" with Linda Finke, RN, PhD.

    Both webcasts are available on the site archive. Listeners need a computer media player such as the free Windows Media Player. A text transcript is also available online.

    Future webcasts will discuss Employment and the Americans With Disabilities Act, Advanced Directives, Social Security Administration issues and special needs trusts, and Family Law issues.

    The Eli Lilly Company is funding the website with an "educational" grant. Although a disclaimer states: "The Center for Reintegration does not endorse any organization or recommend the use of any specific treatment or medication listed on the web site...", the site shows a pro-medication bias. But it goes much further. A section called "Achieving Total Wellness in Patients with Schizophrenia" touts olanzapine (a medication from Lilly) as better than risperidone (from Janssen Pharmaceuticals).

    In our view, self-serving claims and sales pitches by Eli Lilly will discredit the site.

    *The other directors, mostly businessmen, include Dr. Bruce Kinon, an olanzapine marketing executive at Eli Lilly.

    What's your opinion? Please let us know...E-mail stigmanet@webtv.net.

    RELATED READING

    Website: The Center for Reintegration

    Urban Justice Center Mental Health Project

    July 28, 2002 - News of the Week


    RESEARCHERS SUGGEST NEW WAYS TO REPORT ON VIOLENCE

    A Mini-Course is AVAILABLE ONLINE


    "If it bleeds, it leads" is journalism's oldest cliche. If a reporter links violence to a mental illness, the news may make headlines for days or weeks.

    What effect does the media's selective coverage of crime and violence have on the public? What can be done about it? These are major concerns at the Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG) in California.

    The BMSG notes: "Crime reporting is a time-honored tradition in journalism. It was developed as a beat in U.S. newspapers in the mid-1800s with the advent of the penny press, when journalists began reporting the details of particularly lurid or noteworthy crimes. That tradition hasn't changed much in the last 120 years."

    Meanwhile, the bulk of crimes that affect communities the most and are the most preventable go unreported, say the BMSG researchers.

    Such lopsided reporting leads people to overestimate the frequency of different classes of crime and violence, promotes fear, and leads to support for punitive rather than preventive crime policies.

    The BMSG takes a public health approach to crime reporting, giving communities a more accurate understanding of violent crimes, the emotional and economic costs of violence, and information about violence prevention.

    The new BMSG website ( under construction http://www.bmsg.org ) has two excellent documents posted in PDF format. Of special interest to mental health advocates is an Instructor's Guide for a college mini-course intended for journalists titled Reporting on Violence: New Ideas for Television, Print and Web. This guide can be a valuable resource for advocates who want to learn how reporting techniques affect public policy.

    RELATED READING


    ON THE WEB:
    Berkeley Media Studies Group

    Dec 26, 1999 News of the Week

    BOOKS:
    Media Advocacy and Public Health: Power for Prevention, by Lawrence Wallack, Lori Dorfman, David Jernigan, Makani Themba. Sage Publications, 1993

    NEWS for a CHANGE: An Advocate's Guide to Working With the Media, by Lawrence Wallack, Katie Woodruff, Lori Dorfman, Iris Diaz. Sage Publications, 1999

    Reporting on Violence: New Ideas for TV, Print and Web, by Jane Ellen Stevens. Berkeley Media Studies Group, 2001.

    July 21, 2002 - News of the Week


    MENTAL HEALTH COMMISSION SEEKS COMMENTS

    We pass along the following message of importance to all members of the mental health community.

    E-mail Message From: owner-thekey@dca.net
    Date: Mon, Jul 22, 2002, 5:22pm
    To: undisclosed-recipients
    Subject: Public Comment for the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health
    http://www.mentalhealthcommission.gov/comments/addcomment.asp

    The President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health is soliciting public comment from stakeholders in the mental health community. The purpose of obtaining public comment is to assist the Commission in formulating an action plan for the President that will improve America's mental health service delivery system.

    While all relevant comments are of interest and may be submitted to the Commission at any time, several topics will be listed on this website for public comment.  All selected topics for public comment reflect the President's charge, as outlined in Executive Order 13263.  The topics listed on the website will change periodically, focusing first on identifying problems and barriers within the system, and later on identifying solutions. 

    Comments relating to the first set of topics will be most helpful to the Commission if submitted by August 20, 2002.  An additional set of topics will be posted after that time.  All comments will be most helpful to the Commission if received by December 31, 2002.  Comments received after that date, nonetheless, will be made available to the Commissioners.

    The public may provide comments to the Commission through three methods:

  • This website.  Comments can be sent electronically or printed off the next page and mailed to the Commission; 

  • Mail written comments or information to the Commission; or

  • Present comments in person to the Commission during the public comment period held at every Commission meeting.

    CLICK HERE FOR PUBLIC COMMENT SECTION
    http://www.mentalhealthcommission.gov/comments/addcomment.asp

    Home Page for President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health
    http://www.mentalhealthcommission.gov
  • July 14 - News of the Week


    PROGRESS IS A ROCKY ROAD


    1) AN OUTRAGEOUS HEADLINE SPARKS NEW AWARENESS

    On Wednesday, the headline, ROASTED NUTS, topped a news report about a fire at the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital (no injuries) in New Jersey. Tony Persichilli, who wrote the headline for The Trentonian, is also a columnist and editor at the tabloid. Outraged advocates protested and the next day Persichili issued a strong apology (link is below). The headline style is called a "hammer head," Persichilli said. "I should have hit myself with one."

    This latest entry to the National Stigma Clearinghouse's archive of loathsome language ends a relatively quiet period that we mistook for progess. But in a way, the episode does show signs of progress.

    More than one advocate spotted the headline, immediately passed the word to other groups, mobilized, and voiced their united objections. Immediately, Persichilli issued a public apology and took sole responsibility for the "inaccurate" and "insensitive" lapse in judgment. With every journalist who gains new understanding, advocates gain an ally who can influence public attitudes.

    2) RELEVANT (?) REPORTING IN "THE PLAIN DEALER"

    In Cleveland's The Plain Dealer on July 1, a headline states, "Westlake Man Attacks Officers With Knife, Police Report." The article reports police intervention in a family argument. Readers learn near the end of the article that the man wielding the knife was said to have a history of mental illness. Following this are the neighbors' good reports about the family and a mention that injuries to police officers in the area are rare.

    By using a non-sensationalist headline, the article's fairness is several notches above the norm for such reports. But the report stretches journalism's rules of relevance by noting the knife-wielder's possible history of mental illness. This assumes or implies that mental illnesses (no details) cause violence, reinforcing a damaging stereotype.

    Overall, however, the Plain Dealer points to a hopeful direction in reporting.


    3) TV RERUNS PRESERVE PREJUDICE

    In New York City Voices (April/May 2002), "Hey Media, It's Our Turn" by Kurt Douglas Sass commends "the long way media have come in showing minorities, women, mentally retarded individuals and gay persons in a much more honest and truthful light," and adds, "It's about time they did the same for people with a mental illness."

    Kurt Sass cites as an example a multi-episode plot in "The Practice," ABC's critically acclaimed drama. Sass says, "The minute they mentioned that one character had schizophrenia, I turned to my wife and said, 'I bet any amount of money in the world that he ends up to be a mass murderer and deviant.' Sure enough, the character ended up murdering 10 people, including his own psychologist. He also liked to pull out the fingernails of each victim and collect them." For the zillionth time, the image of schizophrenia has been maligned and misrepresented.

    Such effective image-making would be worth $$$millions in the advertising world. The trouble is, the image is all wrong and causes devastating damage.

    Kurt Sass saw the episodes first on ABC-TV, but now they appear on other stations. Once a TV show is sold to syndicators, the original owners shed responsibility for its content. Advocates must insist that TV shows with egregious exploitation are withdrawn from circulation before they enter the endless cycle of reruns.

    RELATED READING

    "I Apologize, Headline Was Insensitive"

    "Westlake Man Attacks Officers With Knife, Police Report"

    New York City Voices (article is not yet posted)

    (If you have difficulty finding the articles, email stigmanet@webtv.net, include a mailing address, and we will send them to you by postal mail.)

    July 7, 2002 - News of the Week

    OTTO WAHL RECEIVES HONOR, THEN HELPS NATIONAL STIGMA CLEARINGHOUSE

    For nearly three decades, Dr. Otto F. Wahl, a professor of psychology at George Mason University, has worked to destigmatize mental illnesses. A forerunner in the field, Dr. Wahl has become internationally renowned for his books, lectures, and research.

    On May 18, Wahl's years of research and advocacy were honored with an award from Eli Lilly and Company.

    Dr. Wahl in turn honored the National Stigma Clearinghouse by assigning us a $5,000 gift which accompanied Eli Lilly's recognition of Wahl's major contributions to destigmatization.

    The National Stigma Clearinghouse has long been grateful to Dr. Wahl for his help as an advisor. Now we thank him for giving us the financial means to continue our work.

    To learn more about Dr. Wahl's work, visit his
    website.

    ________________________


    Thoughts on Medication:
    It Cannot Solve the Care Crisis

    The discovery of psychiatric medications gave new options to people whose lives are disrupted by episodes of psychosis or other disabling symptoms. People use medicine to avoid an unbearable alternative.

    But many individuals have experienced over-medication, diagnostic errors, and coercion, causing pain and distrust. People who willingly take medication generally have found a type and dosage that suit their needs, usually through working with an informed and trusted medical practitioner.

    Effective medication requires careful monitoring and adjustments, a safe place to live, food, and a full range of options that promote recovery. Medication helps many individuals, but it is not the solution to the present crisis in psychiatric care.

    For a decade, proponents of involuntary medication have said coercion is necessary to protect public safety, thus gaining law enforcement and legislative support. But coercion's damaging impact and its proponents' one-note emphasis on dangerousness have polarized the mental health community and spawned a backlash among moderate advocates. Thoughtful discussion has been lost in the fray.

    The President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (with only one psychiatric survivor representing a huge constituency) will now try to muster the wisdom needed to recommend lasting solutions to the crisis in psychiatric care.

    Become well-informed. Become a registered voter. Become involved. Let your voice be heard!

    RELATED READING


    Norman Sartorius, "Iatrogenic Stigma of Mental Illness: Begins With Behavior and Attitudes of Medical Professionals, Especially Psychiatrists"(Emailed from Alliance for Human Research Protection)

    Laura Van Tosh: "New Freedom Mental Health Commission Should Focus On Olmstead"(Emailed from NYAPRS and MadNation)

    Website of the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health"(Emailed from sources above and CMHS/SAMHSA)

     

     

     

     

     

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